Having taken a bronze medal in the omnium at the Rio Olympics last month, Belgian woman Jolien D’hoore won today’s Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta. The Wiggle-High5 rider emerged from the bunch, apparently to lead out Australian teammate Chloe Hosking, but managed to stay clear ahead of both Hosking and Marta Bastianelli (Alé-Cipollini) in third.
The race was the final event of the inaugural Women’s WorldTour which was won by American Megan Guarnier, herself aggressive in the race, bringing a late break to heel on the final 5.8km lap of the 87km race.
The race was aggressive and entertaining throughout, the smaller teams enlivening the day, as they fought to show themselves and take intermediate sprint points, available on all but the opening and closing of the 15 laps.
Numerous breakaways managed to get clear but were unable to establish any meaningful advantage, and as the race headed towards its conclusion, the bigger teams came to the front and began to dominate.
Only then, with just 20km remaining, did two riders manage to go clear, Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto-Soudal) and Simona Frapporti (Hitec Products) managing to build a gap of 35 seconds.
Behind them D’hoore’s Wiggle-High5 team played a canny game throughout, only showing themselves on the penultimate lap to assist in the chase. It was, however Boels-Dolmans who led the race into the final tight corner heading into the expected sprint finish.
Molly Weaver (Liv-Plantur) and double junior World Champion Lucy Garner (Wiggle-High5) were the only British riders to take the start, both were involved in the chase, Weaver especially visible bringing the numerous breaks under control.
Guarnier’s overall win comes after her Boels-Dolmans team dominated the WorldTour. The team won the opening five events, World Champion Lizzie Armitstead winning three of those, and Dutchwoman Chantal Blaak the other two.
Indeed, the team only relinquished leadership of the WorldTour for one week, when eventual Rio Olympic champion, Anna van der Breggen took over after the second race, Ronde van Drenthe, in March.
While her teammates were racking up wins, American road champion Guarnier was always there or there abouts, scoring four top ten finishes in WorldTour races before she won the Amgen Tour of California and the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, by which time the 31-year-old had 226 point lead in the series.
“It’s a little bit hard for me to believe,” Gaurnier told Cycling Weekly of her overall success.
“For years my goal was to win the World Cup series and now to have won the first WorldTour it’s pretty cool. It’s never easy to win one bike race, if you win one it makes a good season and I’ve won a few, so it’s been a great season.
“It also goes to show the strength of Boels-Dolmans. Everybody contributes and we go into each race trying to figure out how to win it.”
New this year, the WorldTour replaced the World Cup which consisted only of one day races.
This year, however, the top level of women’s racing also contested multi-day events, bringing the number of race days at this level from ten to 35.
“There was a WorldTour race every month, which we didn’t see in the World Cup,” Guarnier continued. “We saw the stage races come into play and that gave a narrative and something to watch throughout the year.”
Having dominated the Spring and won the Aviva Women’s Tour in June, Lizzie Armitstead was the best of the Brits, finishing the classification in third place, despite not starting on Sunday in Madrid.
Dani King was the next best placed home rider, finishing 35th even though she rode the entire season as a domestique.
Largely successful, the WorldTour was not without its faults as some races were nearly invisible on television or even social media.
Publicity for the races was the responsibility of organisers, and it remains to be seen whether the UCI will take action against those events.
In any case it is unlikely the WorldTour will remain the same next year, with rumours of a women’s Amstel Gold Race and the addition and of other races probable.
Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta – 87km – Result
1. Jolien D’hoore (Bel) Wiggle-High5, in 2-01-01
2. Chloe Hosking (Aus) Wiggle-High5
3. Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Alé-Cipollini
4. Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels-Dolmans
5. Maria Confalonieri (Ita) Lensworld Zannata
6. Carmen Small (USA) Cylance
7. Monique van de Ree (Ned) Lares-Waowdeals
8. Eugenia Bujak (Pol) BTC-Ljubljana
9. Roxane Fournier (Fra) Poitou Charentes-Futurosope
10. Emilie Moberg (Nor) Hitec Products, all same time